Cultivating Constructive Conversations

Conversation is fundamental to identity, learning, and even survival (Rutledge, 2011). Constructive conversations move beyond typical surface level school activities such as reciting facts, making up sentences to show grammar rules, and matching vocabulary meanings. In authentic interaction work, students use knowlege and language (grammar, vocabulary, and organized ideas to clarify, fortify, and negotiate complex thoughts. Our current and future students can benefit from this major shift in pedagogy, which is a shift from training them to choose answers to training them to pose questions, explore different points of view, and build meanings with others. Fortunately, the Common Core State Standards emphasize interaction skills and complex language development. And even if they didn’t, we have a duty to provide students at all levels and ages with multiple and well-supported opportunities to interact using original, whole, and academic messages. 

Tools for Constructive Conversations

Constructive Conversation Skills Poster (PDF)
This tool shows four important conversation skills, their icons, and sentence starters to help students engage in purposeful and extended interactions.

Math Constructive Conversation Skills Poster (PDF)
This tool helps students build four key conversation skills for working together on math ideas and problems.

Math Paired Conversation Protocol (PDF) 
This tool guides pairs through an effective conversation to collaboratively solve complex math problems.

Argumentation Activities 
This set of activities helps students practice their abilities to build and challenge ideas using evidence-based reasoning.

Argument and Evidence Scale Visual Organizer (2D)  ( 3D version
This visual helps students to evaluate and weigh the evidence for and against two different positions